Category Archives: pregnancy

The Birth Story of Alton King

Alton shows off his fancy anklets.

To me, birth stories are kind of like, I don’t know, Christmas music. The only time I can really stand birth stories (Christmas music) is right before I’m about to give birth (celebrate Christmas), when I’m suddenly really really into them. In fact, a few minutes before I went into labor with Alton, I was lying in bed (okay, awkwardly wedged into my snoogle), reading stories of natural births, trying to psych myself up. So, because reading the stories of other mothers was maybe what finally convinced this kid to be born – after going a week past my due date and trying all the stupid things people tell you to do to induce labor – I thought I would share mine here. It’s gross, like they all are, and it’s beautiful, or it is if you’re about to have a baby anyway, and most of all, it’s very, very brief.

Now, I would like to say here that everything about this pregnancy was different than my first. When I was pregnant with Harper I was a glowing and magical beast. I put in hours of prenatal yoga and swimming. I felt wonderful right up until the instant my labor started. It was a completely textbook labor, contractions starting about 10 minutes apart and then getting closer together and more intense, and I breathed and om-ed my merry little way for about 6 hours, when we calmly took a car to the hospital and, with the help of my midwife and a fantastic labor nurse and the spirits of birthing women everywhere, I delivered Harper naturally (well, drug-free anyway – “naturally” sounds so accusatory). The whole thing took 12 hours, not so bad for a first baby. Afterwards I was really uncomfortable due to a lot of tearing but that was sort of the worst of it. “Let’s have another!” we said to each other over Harper’s greasy little head. “Let’s have a million!”

This time was different. I was much sicker in the beginning, much more uncomfortable and tired and achy throughout. At our 20-week sonogram we learned that I had something called a velamentous cord insertion. This means the umbilical cord wasn’t connected very firmly to the placenta, but rather was sort of semi-attached to the uterine wall. I’m no doctor, but doesn’t that sound BAD? Isn’t the placenta where the baby gets NUTRITION? Everyone kept saying, “It’s nothing serious, we just have to keep checking to make sure he’s growing.” And we’d say, “Hmmm okay, but what if he doesn’t grow?” And they’d be like, “Oh, it’s fine, don’t worry about it.” But really if he didn’t grow there was the chance he’d have to be delivered early via c-section and all sorts of terrible things could happen. And there was also the chance that the cord could be compressed during labor which could result in TERRIBLE THINGS. So we promptly commenced to freak out in a slow-boil kind of way for the following 21 weeks.

But he grew. Isn’t he a clever child? He grew, and by the end there I felt like I was carrying around a bowling ball, and I hurt everywhere all the time, and couldn’t sleep, and couldn’t think, and thank goodness my mom came into town for a month because he ended up being LATE of all things, when Harper was born 4 days before her due date and thus we were all expecting him to come even earlier. But no. 4 days after my due date had come and gone, I miserably visited one of the ob-gyns in my practice (my midwife was on vacation that week, naturally, and I hope she had a REALLY RELAXING TIME) who offered to induce me. This was tempting. I met up with Adam afterward and we walked around Soho making lists of pros and cons. “But what if there’s some reason he hasn’t been born yet?” the annoying hippie in me kept saying. The citified lady on my other shoulder countered, “Make an appointment to induce tonight, everything will be very organized, you’ll know your mom and Harper are all set, you won’t have to wait around all achey and in suspense any longer.” Agh! I reluctantly decided to wait, knowing if nothing else they’d induce me in a week. Keep in mind that a week to an overdue pregnant lady is an absolute eternity.

For days I had contractions that would start and stop, and all the signs of early labor – the stomach upset, the feelings of spaciness, weird unappetizing discharge. I kept thinking, This is it! And no. It was not it. Or else I was actually in labor for like a week, which might very well have been the case.

So on the night of April 6th, when I started having contractions around 10 pm, I was unconvinced. I texted Adam – that’s how unconvinced I was, I didn’t even feel it was urgent enough to actually call – that maybe he should come home (he was working late). A few contractions later I texted my mom: “Sorry if it’s another false alarm.” But soon the contractions were pretty intense and already 3 minutes apart. By the time Adam and my mom arrived, maybe 20 minutes later, I was at that unable-to-speak stage when you know the game is ON. I greeted them graciously (just kidding, I puked and then batted away the coat Adam offered me) and shuffled into the cab Adam had taken home from work and held. And good thing, too, because this kid was seriously almost born in that cab. I was in my right mind enough to be thankful that it was a nice big cab and a very clean one too, because I spent most of the ride on the floor on my hands and knees, biting Adam’s leg.

Seriously, I was transformed into a crazy pregnant lady from the movies, the kind you think is a total exaggeration. “What is taking everyone so long?” was my refrain. The cab ride to NYU took a hundred million years, during which Adam tried to point out the sights and I repeatedly threatened to fucking kill him. At the hospital I demanded a wheelchair (which the cabbie went and got, bless him! Sorry about the amniotic fluid on your nice leather seat, buddy!) and yelled at Adam to go faster as he pushed me through the lobby. The contractions were all on top of each other with no break in between, and my yoga breathing was no match for them. It was just brutal. I almost punched the nurse who languidly checked us in. Why the shit was she asking if I was a vegetarian? “Please hurry,” I said to everyone I saw. They seemed to think I was overreacting. “And on a scale of one to ten, where is your pain?” “I DON’T KNOW!” I said.

Okay, so FINALLY (it was 11:35 or 11:40) I got into a room and they were just strapping all the stuff onto me when I asked to go the bathroom. Now, because of the cord situation it was really important to get the baby on the monitor (which I don’t think ever happened). Anyway, the nurse asked me warily why I wanted to go. She okayed a pee but said not to push the baby out. Okay, right whatever, I promised. The pain was getting really intense now and I think I said to Adam that maybe I should get an epidural after all and he reminded me I didn’t want one. After all, I’d done this before. Which was good, because I wouldn’t have had time for one anyway. Once in the bathroom I dropped to my hands and knees sort of involuntarily and felt a pop and my water broke and then I politely suggested that it might yes actually be time to push. “No no no,” everyone said. “Yes, yes, yes,” I countered.

They got me onto the bed and told me not to push and listen, when a baby is coming and you feel the urge to push, this is a ridiculous thing to hear. It’s like someone shoving your head under water and telling you not to struggle to breathe. Just really beyond your control. Then someone cried out, “She’s bulging!” How vivid! Shudder! Anyway, so whatever random doctor is on call shows up and I scream like the movie-pregnant-lady I am and push out the baby in one or two big pushes and boom, there he is. It was 12:07.

He was a bit purple and didn’t cry for a few moments, but he was great. Just perfect. Lying on my chest with his eyes open and blinking around at everything, taking a moment to reflect before beginning to wail. No one could believe it, including me. The mystery doctor vanished into the night, and a few minutes later the doctor on call from my practice showed up. It must be so strange to watch women go from laboring beasts to regular people again over and over. Soon I was laughing and snuggling the baby and joking with the nurses I’d been wishing death to a few moments before. And what in the world, there was this baby, after so long waiting and so short laboring. I think I’m still in shock at how quickly he was born. It was pretty insane. And what’s best about it is that the recovery has also been super quick! A week later, I feel great. And Alton is such a love.

So, there you go. I guess I managed to make it not that brief after all. And if I ever have another baby, I think it’s a home birth for me. Whether I want it or not. And also: Yay! I’m not pregnant anymore!

The New Guy

Things To Do While Waiting For a Baby To Be Born

be positive

Yeah, yeah, yeah. (Print from trulyvera's etsy shop)

Let’s assume you did all your baby stuff weeks ago, like I have– washed and folded the heart-flutteringly tiny clothes, set up the crib, installed the car seat, boiled bottles and binkies, started a college account (JUST KIDDING! HA HA HA)– and even remembered to obtain fun post-birth items for yourself, such as maxi pads and ice packs (home spa time!). Let’s assume you’ve also done all the secondary baby stuff, the stuff lazy relaxed second-timers like me are putting off, like getting a double stroller and studying the schedule of baby classes at the Y.

 

I’m not sure if anyone told him this, but Boombox’s due date was yesterday, and since his sister was born a little before her due date everyone was expecting him to come early too, which makes it feel like I’ve been playing the waiting game forever. I’ve heard tell of ladies who go two weeks (or more?) past their due date, which I would possibly worry about were I the worrying type but of course I am cool as a cucumber. A cucumber nervously considering the possibility of 2 more weeks of being pregnant.

Should you ever find yourself in such a predicament, here are some diversions I can recommend to take your mind off the fact that at any moment you might be about to begin one of the most intense and physically demanding experiences of your life and/or just continue to sit around feeling heavy and sleepy.

1) Catch up on work, review teaching syllabi, or, if you are the freelancing type, compile some pitches. HA HA JUST KIDDING your brain is total mush at this point.

2) Throw yourself into creative projects like novel revisions or perhaps outlining that short story you’ve been meaning to write. HA HA JUST KIDDING. See above.

3) Enjoy these precious, quiet pre-baby moments and read a book. HA HA JUST KIDDING. See above.

4) Catch up on the news. JUST KIDDING this will make you cry, and feel bad for feeling bad for yourself when all you’re doing is eating too much chocolate while your mother entertains your toddler and meanwhile the rest of the world is going to hell in a handbasket.

5) Wonder what happened to that burst of nesting energy that is supposed to inspire you to clean your whole apartment with a toothbrush. In lieu of this, nap. Wake up in pain because your body’s all in loosened-up ligamenty pieces — good for giving birth, but not so good for shifting in your sleep.

6) Field hundreds of texts and emails that say clever things like, “Any baby yet?” Respond in humorous and patient ways, keeping in mind how sweet it is that people care and are checking in on you, and how much worse you could have it, and how exciting and precious these moments are. And/or copy and paste “I WILL FUCKING TELL YOU WHEN THERE IS SOMETHING TO TELL YOU BLAAAAAGGGHHHH”

7) Relax by thinking about how much your midwife will enjoy her relaxing tropical vacation she’s scheduled to take next week while you deliver your late baby with some random shlub in possession of something called a “medical degree.”

Any other suggestions?

 

Baby Nook

baby nook

I was going crazy trying to hang everything straight and then stepped back and realized: the molding itself is crooked. As are all the walls. Oh, brownstone!

There are these people we know who live in places such as anywhere other than New York who say crazy things like, “We really need more space/another bedroom/a bedroom at all before we have a baby.” Does anyone know what they are talking about?

Anyway, Baby Boombox will, upon his imminent arrival, be hanging out in our bedroom with us because we are old-world like that. Above is his little nook. No really, that’s the whole thing.

crib

Don't tell Boombox, but this used to be a GIRL'S crib.

When you learn you are having a boy, you hear a lot of sympathetic Aw-the-stuff-just-isn’t-as-cutes, as if the main joy of parenthood were the accumulation of adorable little dresses and matching bonnets.  It totally is, of course. But still, I have not found boy stuff to be un-cute. Look at that quilt! A gift from Grandma and Grandpa, who found it at Sewn Natural’s Etsy shop, which is also where we got Harper’s lovely matryoshka dolla quilt for her big girl bed.

mobile

This Plan Toys rattle mobile is not as funny as the "city animals" mobile we made for Harper, but probably more functional.

The artwork above the crib — well, I don’t know.  What do you think, too boyish? (I realize I need a better picture of it.) The military theme is a bit creepy, I know, but we found those little soldier guys at a stoop sale ages ago and found them weirdly charming. The walrus embroidery is another Etsy find — check out kngo’s shop for more awesome embroideries and assorted sweetnesses.

donkey embroidery

I didn't make it. But somebody did.

Then of course I thought Harper needed one too. Her donkey is hung over her bed, just one wall apart from Boombox’s walrus. (Oh we are cozy aren’t we.)

donkey embroidery

Harper now occasionally jumps around screaming "Bonjour!" which makes this needlepoint totally worth it.

I know I’m not alone in being, these last days of pregnancy, fixated on getting The Stuff all set. Like, if the baby’s crib is all set up and his artwork hung and the hospital bag packed and the clothes carefully washed in Dreft and then tucked away (only to be whipped out daily and used to dress up dollies…oh well) then he will realize it’s time to be born, and all will be well. Now I’m making up things. Oh, he wants me to write a blog post and THEN he will be born! Oh wait, he wants me to finish this OTHER made-up project and THEN he will be born.

Well listen, baby, your gestating is officially complete and there is a cute walrus embroidery on your wall.  That’s all I’m saying.

Baby: the Sequel.

 

siblings

Stopping at one is for sissies. (Dutch siblings, courtesy of New York Public Library)

As usual I’m behind on my New Yorkers, but I did manage to read Tina Fey’s great piece in the February 14th issue on motherhood and deciding whether to have more than one child. I love how frank she is in discussing what she deems the second-worst question you can ask a woman (the first being the as-idiotic-as-it-is-ubiquitous “How do you juggle it all?”): “Are you going to have more kids?”

Funny, this question has never struck me as particularly rude or even annoying, but then again, despite our similar and obviously excellent personal styles, I’m not exactly Tina Fey. For example, I’m not a movie star.  Additionally, there wasn’t really enough time between these babies for anyone to wonder whether we’d have another (including us). It just might be a question reserved for those four+ years-in-between folks.  (Or older moms.  To wit, Fey’s line: “To hell with everybody! Maybe I’ll just wait until I’m fifty and give birth to a ball of fingers!”  Oh, how that made me chuckle.)

Fey writes about how she thought only-children would be the norm in New York, when in reality, “all over Manhattan, large families have become a status symbol. Four beautiful children named after kings and pieces of fruit are a way of saying, ‘I can afford a four-bedroom apartment and a hundred and fifty thousand dollars in elementary-school tuition fees each year. How you livin’?”

I know this is why we are having a second. We just want to show that we CAN. Can…do the geometrically impossible by squeezing a mini-crib in our little bedroom! Take that, poors! No, I don’t know.  We just figured that siblings who were close in age would have a good chance of being buddies, and that we might as well have a bunch of babies while we are physically able, and used to being on a budget, and heck, when it comes to number 2, why not just add him to the mix while we’re used to not sleeping and having our pockets constantly filled with raisins and boogery Kleenexes?

And then there’s always the question of, as Fey writes, “who will be my daughter’s family when my husband and I are dead from stress-induced canker sores?”  Plus, even if Harper and Boomer have their differences, at least they will have each other to complain to about how weirdly perfect their parents are.

That said, OH MY GOD WE ARE ABOUT TO HAVE ANOTHER BABY and the old baby is, you know, still in diapers. Then again, she also changes her dollies’ diapers an awful lot (the other day I was informed, wonderfully, that “Virginia Woolf got a package from stinktown”). And hopefully Boombox is coming along early enough in her life that she won’t remember and miss the before.  And ALSO hopefully (as Fey worries) I’m not destroying my movie career by having so many darn kids right now. Oh wait. Wait, no, I don’t think that’s going to be a problem. Lucky me, I’m a writer! I can write my really wonderful amazing novel when I’m 60 and all my kids have moved out and the publishing company (if there are any at that point, or books, I guess – ok, my e-text-phone-app-book-thing) can slap an outdated author photo on the dust jacket and we’ll call it a day.

Now he just has to be born.  Tick-tock, due date. We are officially in the super-ready-to-be-done-being-pregnant phase.

The Read Balloon: The Very Little Girl

As I mentioned in a long-ago post on the excellent book Baby Brother, it’s weirdly hard to find good books on welcoming new babies into the family. It’s weirdly easy, though, to find books that do a wonderful job of revealing to children that having a new sibling is going to be a huge pain in the ass. Call me delusional, but I’ve been trying to focus on the former.

Which led to yet another rediscovery of an old favorite: The Very Little Girl, by Phyllis Krasilovsky, and beautifully illustrated by the mysteriously one-named Ninon.  I even like their names beside one another. I picture a kindly old librarian and a swarthy magician, working together in a 1950s garret somewhere, and have refrained from googling them in order to avoid disabusing myself of this notion. Anyway, this (now out-of-print) book was given to me by my aunt and uncle in August of 1982.  I can’t imagine why. Coincidentally, my brother was born in August of 1982.  Weird, right?

The Very Little Girl, by Phyllis Krasilovsky, illustrated by Ninon

I’m pleased to find that Harper is fascinated by this book. The pink and green illustrations are so very sweet, and I’ve always loved this tiny little girl and her quest to, well, grow a bit bigger.  Heck, I can relate. Well not these days actually. I seem to be growing plenty, thank you very much. But as a little girl I was, you know, little, and I remember this being an oddly significant part of my identity.

The Very Little Girl

So — SPOILER ALERT — at the end of the book, the girl manages to grow. She can now reach more stuff.

The Very Little Girl

AND

The Very Little Girl

WAIT FOR IT

The Very Little Girl

The Very Little Girl

GAH!

The first time we read this book after we found out that Harper’s predictions of “Boy Bruddah” were, eerily, correct, I literally cried. I know, hormones, right? But it’s just so sweet.  First of all, I have a strange predilection for picture books in which no grownups or parents appear.  And in this little world, there are just cute tiny pieces of furniture, rose bushes, friendly animals and the like. Mostly, I love the little girl sweetly feeding her brother at the end.  Harper loves this image too. Part of her preparations for the new baby have been rigorous feeding sessions with her baby dolls (they enjoy milk, juice, hot tea, star soup, and a felt leek that Harper calls “ice cream cone”).  She points to this last page and says, in a high squeaky voice, “Leetle leetle leetle leetle baby.”

Also, check out that baby’s fat little stomach. Cute.

By the way: for those in our position, I’ve found two other “new baby” books that both I and Harper like.  The matter-of-fact and upbeat I’m a Big Sister Now, by Joanna Cole and illustrated by Rosalinda Keightly (there’s an older version with much less cute illustrations — beware!) is really lovely, and Harper can recite a slightly garbled version by heart if you want to save some book-buying money and just ask her instead. There’s a boy version too for big brothers.  And Mercer Mayer’s The New Baby is pretty good too.

As Harper now demands we say at the end of every book, whether it says so or not:

The End.

Harper and her Boppa study up.

No Happy Ending Jokes, Please.

massage

Massages are awesome! Also, lying on one's stomach. I remember that. Sort of. (Portrait of Gloria King, Library of Congress)

The most amazing thing happened to me this weekend.

I got a 2-hour prenatal massage. For free.  It was given to me by magical fairies who appeared at my apartment bearing gifts of fresh flowers and a french-press of magical nectar.  OKAY so that last part isn’t true.  Really I had to trek through a freezing rain all the way to CHELSEA.  Hm, actually that part was pretty nice too.  20 minutes or so on the train with a book and no distractions?  That’s like a mommy vacation.

And I have to say, I don’t even know exactly how this free massage came to be.  A friend sent an email offering free massages from students who were becoming certified in prenatal massage at the Swedish Institute and the next thing I knew, I was lying on a cot wrapped in a sheet that smelled so wonderfully clean I made a mental note to wash my sheets as soon as I got home (for surely a clean-linens smell shouldn’t be that much of a novelty). The students (or at least the young lady who was my private masseur for the day) were excited and nervous to be working on actual pregnants.  Every once in a while she would stop and consult her worksheet of Things she was supposed to Do. “I’m feeling a little lost,” she’d whisper urgently to the instructor.  “Well, have you done the Blahbedyblah on the Blahbedeelobeflexor?” “Oh, right!  Okay!”  Then she would reapply some oil from her waist holster and recommence. It was like listening to dentists.  You’re like, man, what are they saying? I should know more about my body parts. Then you’re like, eh whatever.

Having never gotten an actual prenatal massage before, I felt convinced my lady was a prodigy.  I wanted to tell her, “Bollocks to your cheat sheet, missy!  Just keep rubbing all the weird knots out of my weird back!”  Of course, I was mildly afflicted by the same problem I always have in the relaxation period of a yoga class, where they tell you to clear your mind.  My mind immediately, as if on command, wells up with absolute detritus.  “If I were in the dating world, I would definitely date a masseuse,” I thought.  Then I thought, “Stop thinking and enjoy this!”  Then I thought, “I wonder why anyone would want to be a massage therapist?  All that…touching people! Blech!  But it is so nice of them!  I’m so glad!”

Then I started thinking about why anyone would want to be a midwife, and remembering how after Harper was born I just lay there in the bed feeling so very grateful — how wonderful that people had the energy and stomach for all that yelling and blood and vagina! And then of course I started thinking about how I was going to be doing all that again, pretty soon, and how we haven’t even come up with a name yet, and how we really needed to buy tiny diapers and a new stroller, and most of all, how on earth was I going to give birth being so sleepy and relaxed?  Oh but wait, I wasn’t going to be this sleepy and relaxed, because I wasn’t going to be getting a massage at the time or maybe ever again so I better clear my mind and enjoy this, dammit!  So I took some deep breaths and  wondered whether my back was weird in some way I’d never noticed, or if I had significantly more back hair than other ladies or if something else about my physical being was disconcerting to poor well-meaning whatever her name was.

Finally, my mind landed on the familiar cushiony territory of trying not to fall asleep and before I knew it, dreamy time was over.  My back felt WONDERFUL.  For like FIVE MINUTES afterwards.  Then it was back to old achey bones.  Today Harper watched me stand up and said, “Mama back hurt. Harper kiss it.”  Oy.  Poor kid.  I guess it’s an upgrade from the first trimester, when Harper watched me throw up so many times that she started pretend-puking in the toilet now and then just for fun.  Enriching!

So anyway, pregnant ladies out there,  if it’s at all feasible, get a massage!  It was heavenly while it lasted.  I have  unrelaxing heart palpitations when I think about what they actually cost, but maybe you know someone sort of rich who feels like giving you a gift certificate for one, which might be the best gift ever.